Surviving Modernism
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Published in: May-June 2023 issue.


Art, Literature, and the Experiment of Later Life
by Scott Herring
Columbia Univ. Press. 288 pages, $30.



AMERICAN POET Charles Henri Ford (1908–2002) and his “surrogate son” Indra Tamang share a chapter in Scott Herring’s intriguing, fact-filled, opinion-strewn book of bio-criticism, Aging Moderns: Art, Literature, and the Experiment of Later Life, which focuses on six 20th-century Modernist artists and writers. Among the others he includes are poet and novelist Djuna Barnes (1892–1982), writer and sex diarist Samuel Steward (1909–1993), and “lesbian elder” of the Harlem Renaissance Mabel Hampton (1902–1989). Two additional chapters are devoted to the magic realist painter Ivan Albright (1897–1983) and writer Tillie Olsen 1912–2007). It is a peculiar accident of birth year and residence that this writer got to meet the four openly gay subjects (Barnes, Ford, Steward, and Hampton). I came to know Charles well enough for him to call himself my “Gay Mother,” and Sam Steward well enough for him to show me his special wrist tattoo.

            Herring is clear about what he means by “Modernism.”

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____________________________________________________ Felice Picano’s latest book is A Bard on Hercular.